The Working Waterfront

Looking for balm in wake of violence

Island gratitude list provides beauty, balance

Barbara Fernald
Posted 2022-08-09
Last Modified 2022-08-09

Oh how I wish our country would do what New Zealand did after its last mass shooting, in Christchurch, in 2019. What if our government would reinstate its ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons and install an immediate program to buy them back?

Funds that are already earmarked to buy weapons for Ukraine could be used for these purchases. We would buy the rapid-fire killing machines off our streets and send them to Ukraine to be used, as they were meant to be, for weapons of war.

I have nothing against most gun ownership but who needs to own an automatic or semi-automatic weapon? What is one good reason to keep a rapid-fire killing machine if you’re not in the military? Why are there so many people in America, and serving in our government, who are dead set against making our country a safer place to live?

I’m scared. I need more than a gratitude list.

I’m trying to figure out how to deal with the anger I feel because I know it’s not healthy. I’m reminded of a line from a book I read years ago, White Dog Fell from the Sky, by Eleanor Moty: “The bitter heart eats its owner.” I need to find a balance to my outrage before it consumes me.

I’ve written to Sens. King and Collins and to Rep. Golden. I’ve joined Every Town for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action. My emotional pendulum is still stuttering in the part of its arc that swings between fury and depression.

I know that the quickest path out of self-pity is to make a gratitude list, but today’s outrage and bitterness are different. I’m scared. I need more than a gratitude list. I need to make an evidence list.

I need to look around and take in the details of all that is still good and special right in front of me. I can take time to survey the beauty and the magical coincidences over which I have no control. It’s June in the Cranberry Isles, so all I need to do to make such a list is to step outside my door and pay attention.

The ocean: any day, any time, any tide.

The sound of hermit thrushes singing in the woods at dusk.

Spring peepers.

The little patch of blue-eyed grass that showed up between raised beds in my veggie garden after I had made plans to buy some to plant in that exact spot.

Watching a cardinal, a goldfinch, and an indigo bunting share space under the feeder.

Apple blossoms and lilacs blooming simultaneously with beach peas, lupine, and daisies.

The straight line of pink granite dividing the space between trees and water all the way around Baker Island.

Lady slippers in the woods, undisturbed.

Looking at stars on a clear night.

Watching a great blue heron fly overhead.

My evidence list speaks of the kind of wonder and beauty in the world that no human power created, and yet there it is. When I’ve veered too far toward bitterness it reminds me there is still available stability, right here where I live.

The list changes with the seasons. These days my garden provides the balance. To benefit the pollinators I avoided it until June. “No mow May” and all that. Talk about being powerless. I’ve never seen so many weeds, but I bet Tom’s bees were happy.

The gratification is pretty swift when it comes to weeding the garden so I’ve been enjoying it. Thanks to Elliot’s plant sale and Cindy’s library sale I have plants to install in newly turned dirt. More instant gratification. Nothing feels bitter here. My spirit takes a rest in a little pocket of peace.

Go out and notice something good and take extra time to soak it in when you find it. It’s still there. Especially if you’re spending spring in the Cranberry Isles.

Barbara Fernald lives on Islesford (Little Cranberry Island). She may be reached at